Many fans not adhering to Braves’ policy on wearing masks at Truist Park

Braves fans perform the "Tomahawk Chop" in the first inning Sunday, April 11, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Braves fans perform the "Tomahawk Chop" in the first inning Sunday, April 11, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Through five home games, the Braves have not strictly enforced their mask policy at Truist Park.

ExploreTruist Park changes for 2021 season

Masks are required except for when “guests are actively eating or drinking while in their seats.” Yet through Tuesday’s fifth home game, a clear majority of fans have been seen — in person and on telecasts — not adhering to the mask policy. The Braves will increase stadium capacity later this month.

Each game, the Braves play a video about 15 minutes before first pitch explaining the rule, but some fans ignore the message. While not strictly enforcing the policy, the Braves said they are encouraging their fans to follow guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Braves would not make anyone available to discuss the issue or provide a statement on the matter to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. However, the team said that it has been vigilant about posting signs around the park asking fans to wear masks in an attempt to enforce the team’s policy. The Braves said they intend to continue with in-game messages that remind fans of the policy.

Fans returned to Truist Park, and to other MLB parks, this spring after a 2020 season with no fans in attendance at MLB games because of the coronavirus pandemic. As fans have returned to the park, most of the health and safety protocols of the pandemic remain in effect — social distancing, modified seating and masks among them.

Braves fans react after a call by Atlanta disputing a ninth-inning run scored by the Philadelphia Phillies is upheld Sunday, April 11, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. The Phillies won 7-6. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Braves fans react after a call by Atlanta disputing a ninth-inning run scored by the Philadelphia Phillies is upheld Sunday, April 11, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. The Phillies won 7-6. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Seating capacity at Truist Park is limited to 33% for this initial homestand, which ends Thursday. The Braves plan to increase the capacity to 50% when the team returns home for games April 23-29 and re-evaluate from there.

In addition to showing the video, the Braves employ ushers throughout the ballpark who hold signs that say, “Thank you for wearing your face covering.” Signs outside the stadium say the same thing, while adding in smaller font, “Please follow CDC guidelines.”

An announced crowd of 14,342 people filled the park Friday at the home opener. Between innings, the scoreboard camera crew panned to fans for fun opportunities such as the kiss cam. (The Braves had presented at least one kiss cam in the three subsequent games before Tuesday.) A large majority of them weren’t wearing masks. Fans appeared to be more consistent wearing masks while entering the stadium and walking through the concourses. Once seated, a large number of masks are removed even by those not eating or drinking. The Braves said they are “definitely doing our best” to enforce the mask policy and said they realize other teams and other sports are facing the same issue.

Braves fans perform the "Tomahawk Chop" during Atlanta Braves home opener Friday, April 9, 2021,at Truist Park in Atlanta.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Braves fans perform the "Tomahawk Chop" during Atlanta Braves home opener Friday, April 9, 2021,at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Before the Braves faced the Marlins on Tuesday night, David Sparano stood in the concourse taking in the atmosphere in his Padres-logoed mask. Sparano, in town for work, said it was made clear to him that masks should be worn unless he was eating or drinking.

Anders and Paul, two friends from Vermont who declined to give their last names, said they weren’t aware of the policy. They said they intended to take their mask off once seated regardless of the rule.

Stephen Shields drove his family from Spartanburg, S.C., for the game. He sat in the outfield during Marlins’ batting practice and watched as his son caught a home run and a kind stranger gave the group another ball. He said the team made the COVID-19 policies clear.

“It feels great to be back. It feels like a milestone,” Shields said. “(Braves employees are) paying attention when it matters. … They did a good job not making (the rules) sound oppressive or discouraging.”

The Braves are operating at 33% until April 23 when maximum capacity will increase to 50% of Truist Park’s 41,000 seats. The Rangers allowed 100% capacity for their home opener. The Rockies currently allow the most fans in the National League.

In an interview with CNN, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said he wouldn’t hesitate to go to an outdoor baseball game with a mask.

Chris Vivlamore contributed to this article.